Huh. Surprised again. Always being surprised. I saw a post by Hemant titled Why is Richard Dawkins Doubling Down on His Previous Statements? I thought it was a post about Dawkins’s previous statements and his new statements in which he says even worse things. I thought it was Hemant finally seeing the problem.
Silly me. Of course not. It turns out to be Hemant saying it’s our fault.
That wasn’t immediately apparent. It wasn’t apparent from this:
In an interview with reporter Kimberly Winston, Dawkins stood by the really frustrating and tone-deaf remarks he’s made over the past year on Twitter (and even before that, in other venues). It was pretty obvious from his remarks that none of the criticism leveraged at him has sunk in. And those of us who still appreciate his books — count me in that mix — are left trying to figure out what the hell to make of all this.
But then we get to his real point:
I also think he’s used to more formal debates where, if you disagree with someone, you respond with a calm rebuttal. Turns out the online world doesn’t work that way. So all he sees are vilifications of his character — the same tactics used by his lifelong opponents — and that just convinces him that he’s been right all along. No wonder he doubled down on his statements. It’s a lot easier to change your mind privately, where you’re not subject to humiliation and being portrayed as the bad guy. When you’re attacked publicly, as is usually the case with him, you become more defensive.
I can tell you that if I were criticized in the way I’ve seen Dawkins criticized — with flippant sarcasm, or over-the-top outrage, or having my own words twisted in a way I never intended — I probably wouldn’t change my mind, either. I’d just get angry at the people who refuse to give me the benefit of the doubt and who seem hell-bent on discrediting me. That’s not to say the critics aren’t justified (or right), but that it just wouldn’t be an effective way to get through to me. There’s an art to telling people they’re wrong in a way that’ll get through to them — I know some teachers who are experts at it — and the Internet is where that skill goes to die.
We kidnapped the Lindbergh baby, too.